Lack of Public Safe Disposal Options Causes Unease Among Diabetics

October 5, 2019

Study uncovers specific areas of care that cause concern for Americans with diabetes and opportunities for developing a plan of action.

A quarter (25%) of Americans with diabetes admit one of their biggest concerns with regard to diabetic care is how to properly dispose of needles. Furthermore, nearly one in 10 (7%) Americans with diabetes dispose of needles/lancets in a public trash can when they are not at home, causing potential risk to others in their community, and the environment, according to findings from a new consumer study, “Access to Care & Sharps Disposal in the Diabetic Community.”

The study was conducted by Stericycle, Inc., a provider of compliance-based solutions headquartered in Bannockburn, Illinois.

“The basic findings of this survey uncovered that there is unease when it comes to administering diabetes care, particularly in public. This is a significant problem, as the majority (69%) of Americans with diabetes have had to administer their care in a public place. Additionally, nearly half (42%) of Americans with diabetes say that a lack of public safety disposal containers is the biggest challenge they face when disposing of needles/lancets,” says Cindy Miller, president and CEO, Stericycle, Inc.

“Because of this, some Americans with diabetes have also turned to disposing of needles in an unsafe manner, for example, in a public trash can where the sharp could potentially prick another person or end up in our environment. This data gives us the insights needed to help address difficulties such as safe disposal, and work to make care easier for the nearly 10% of Americans who live with diabetes.”

The survey of 1,200 Americans with type 1 or type 2 diabetes revealed that nearly one in six (14%) typically dispose of used needles/lancets in a trash can in their home, despite the fact that the majority (61%) are concerned that their disposed needles/lancets could harm someone in their household or where they work. A lack of disposal options may be to blame for improper disposal of sharps, both in the home and in public.

“It’s critical that healthcare executives are aware of the areas in which Americans are finding their own care challenging. This disease is by no means rare, and understanding the specific areas of care that cause concern for Americans with diabetes will help healthcare executives develop a plan of action to better implement solutions where possible,” Miller says. “This may mean creating an educational program to raise awareness for staff and patients about public safety, putting additional safe disposal containers in public restrooms within a hospital, or working with patients and physicians to raise awareness for the area’s accessible public safe disposal containers.”A lack of proper disposal options in public spaces is not the only challenge Americans with diabetes face. The majority (69%) of Americans with diabetes have administered an insulin injection in a public place, and the lack of disposal options is likely one of many reasons why it can trigger negative feelings. Less than one in four (21%) Americans with diabetes feel comfortable administering their insulin or medication in public, saying they feel embarrassed (25%), anxious (24%), and nervous (20%).

In terms of compliance, Miller suggests that healthcare executives can do the following:

1. Work with staff to help educate patients on safe disposal methods for their needles/lancets at home or when in public. Education is crucial to action for public safety initiatives.

2. If not already implemented, healthcare executives can ensure that bathrooms within the healthcare organization, whether for public or employee use, are equipped with safe disposal containers in order to help guide employees, patients, and visitors to dispose of their sharps properly.

3. Raise awareness of safety procedures in the workplace among employees in all positions. Healthcare executives may have already implemented compliant safe disposal containers, but ensuring that their entire staff is fully educated on how to use those containers is an entirely separate step. To ensure the safety of employees and patients, all staff members should be aware of the processes needed to stay compliant.

4. Allow employees and patients at the organization to bring needles into the facility for safe destruction in compliant sharps disposal containers. This kind of safe needle drop-off program can support sharps safety in the home and for the whole community.

“Our research shows that greater access to safe, discreet disposal methods would alleviate a lot of the extra work, emotional anxiety, and safety concerns people face every time they need to administer treatment. This is one problem we can help solve,” Miller adds. “In addition to educating the public on the needs of the diabetic community through this research, we’ve also partnered with the American Diabetes Association to provide greater awareness of care and disposal solutions for people living with diabetes.”